Solar In A Box Powers Off-Grid Communities

Imagine if every day when you arrived at work, you might or might not have electricity to power your laptop, which is at 33 percent battery charge. Definitely throws a wrench into your agenda. While you could call it a day and hope for the best tomorrow, the deadline still looms and you’re nowhere closer to getting done what needs to get done. In San Marco, in Kigali, Rwanda, the problem isn’t yet about laptops, but about powering the most basic of needs – lighting. This is a place where girls and young women have many tasks to do during the day to support their families and livelihoods, leaving only the evening hours for their education. And it’s tough to learn how to read in the dark.

To solve this dilemma, residents have turned to the brightest and most reliable source of light – the sun. The San Marco training center now has energy 24 hours a day through a solar hybrid off-the-grid power system developed by Luxembourg-based SolarTec. The company’s Independent Power System (IPS) was designed for regions without their own electrical grid, and works by capturing solar energy that feeds into the battery system, which then distributes energy automatically to individual electric circuits as needed.

Solartec Independent Power System

image via Solartec

The duration of solar power supply varies depending on usage, but typically ranges from three to five days.  For those unavoidable rainy days, the power system has an optional backup internal load generator powered by diesel or vegetable oil that automatically kicks in. The system is expected to generate two-thirds of its power supply through solar and the remaining third from diesel or vegetable oil – greatly reducing cost of fuel and providing a stable supply of electricity.

Angeli Duffin is a Midwest transplant currently living in San Francisco, CA. Kicking off her career doing product design and development with Fair Trade artisans around the world, she then moved on to the editorial side, writing for eBay’s Green Team blog and working as a marketing consultant for social and environmentally minded companies